It’s so good to be back in the studio! Summer vacation is drawing to a close and all that intense holiday travel is still fresh in my mind. It seems only appropriate to work on something that’s loaded with nostalgia for the Annapolis Valley from which I’ve just returned.
This great image it based on yet another fabulous photograph by my dear friend (and novelist) Christy Ann Conlin, Sparkle Face. Her son called the flowers “deadly of the valley”after their poisonous reputation, all the warnings have paid off!
I love the band of cows running around the deco pitcher in which she placed great handfuls of lily of the valley. I thought it would be fun to paint cows in the pasture beyond the pitcher as well, so I went out to Santa Cruz and snapped a bunch of pictures of cows (same kind as Nova Scotian cows) and placed them in the composition.
And here I’ve used photoshop to plan my preferred placement of the cows, it’s fun to move my herd around the field.
One thing to be careful of when you are working from multiple sources (Christy Ann’s photo of the vase and my photos of cows in the pasture) is that your light source remains unified. I realized that my sources did not match up at all and it seemed easier to modify the lighting on the pitcher and flowers that on the cows. I’ll have to work on that some more tomorrow and try to figure out what I want to do in the foreground. Perhaps I’ll give the suggestion of lace for texture, although part of me wants to put in a big wet nose or furry ear. Suggestions?
I decided to work on the star of the show today, those lovely lily of the valley. They symbolize purity and a return to happiness in the Victorian floriography, which I think is perfect for the spirit of this painting. Humbling though, when you’re working with a small brush, you can see the whole day dissolve away without a lot to show for it! Here I’m trying to capture the specific look and character of these little cheerful little flowers but struggling to keep it painterly – I don’t want it to end up looking like a tole painting!
Okay, so I’m not blowing myself away with my progress on this painting but I’ve been shuttling kids to and from camp and practicing yoga and then there was that day at the beach….. ah well, school starts next week and my excuses will come to an end. Today I worked on building up the bouquet, refining the cow border and the volume of the pitcher. Maybe this time next week I’ll be shopping for a frame!
Today I worked on the foreground. I was excited to use the beautiful vintage pinwheel lace that I had picked up at an auction in Nova Scotia years ago as inspiration. It not only complements the lacy feel of the flowers and adds a soft pattern to move the eye around the composition but it is a human web of sorts.
I knew that my foreground object should bare some direct relationship to either the cows or the flowers and after much thought I decided to go with some kind of scissors or knife to add a sharp contrast to the sweetness of the pastoral and domestic scene without seeming out of context. I thought it also symbolized cutting life short (the darker side of picking flowers and raising cattle) in a very subtle way. So after looking at a lot of old clippers and pruners and horn handled knives, I chose a great beat up pair of grass shears and painted them into the lower right hand corner where their open blades would lead your eye back to the pitcher and leave a gentle sense of menace.
Unfortunately, after I painted them in, I realized that they were actually over a foot long and would look more like this Photoshopped image in relation to the little bouquet. It’s a pity because I really fell in love them, the rust, the flaking enamel, the perfect colors, so much so that I was willing to overlook that they’re overkill for picking the delicate lily of the valley that slip away with a gentle tug. Didn’t bother me. However, I do draw the line when it comes to scale.
There are a lot of exquisite Victorian gardening scissors I could consider, but I think there’s enough sweetness in this painting already. I might try out these wrapped Japanese ones tomorrow, they’re worn and their not too big or too small. Could they be just right?
Many Days Later
The daily progress was so imperceptible, I gave up on shooting it until I’d finished. It’s so hard keep up the spirit and flow of a piece when your working time is broken up with other commitments and obligations! Finally, I reached a point where I felt there was a consistency to the brushwork and lighting, More of the cows actually show on the right but the photo crops them out. Time to MOOve on!